The news cycle is currently focused on the swap to release Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl — five Taliban commanders for the Idaho native — but many Americans still remain held abroad by nefarious regimes or terrorists.
One of those, a Marine veteran who served with distinction in Iraq, specifically said last fall that, even though his unlawful imprisonment in Iran was taking a horrible toll, he would not want his release to come from any sort of swap with Iran.
From our Yellow Ribbon Project story on Flagstaff, Ariz., native Sgt. Amir Hekmati:
Amir took his case directly to Kerry in a letter smuggled out of prison and obtained by the Guardian in September. After thanking Kerry for lobbying on his behalf, Amir stressed that the confessions on false charges were “obtained by force, threats, miserable prison conditions, and prolonged periods of solitary confinement.”
“This is part of a propaganda and hostage taking effort by Iranian intelligence to secure the release of Iranians abroad being held on security-related charges. Iranian intelligence has suggested through my court-appointed lawyer Mr. Hussein Yazdi Samadi that I be released in exchange for 2 Iranians being held abroad,” Amir wrote in the letter confirmed authentic by his family. “I had nothing to do with their arrest, committed no crime, and see no reason why the U.S. Government should entertain such a ridiculous proposition. I do not wish to set a precedent for others that may be unlawfully (obtained) for political gain in the future.”
“While my family and I have suffered greatly I will accept nothing but my unconditional release,” he continued. “The very same suffering that the 3 American hikers have recently suffered and many others by these unlawful tactics. My hope is that those individuals within the Iranian government who respect rule of law and international ethics will intervene in my case. As someone of Iranian heritage, I hope that the Iranian people will also support me and call on their government to respect my legal rights.”
Hekmati has been held by Iran for 1,007 days, initially sentenced to death on a trumped-up charge of “conspiracy to commit espionage” and now serving a 10-year sentence after a quickie closed-door trial for “collaboration” with the U.S. government. Though some on Capitol Hill have championed his case, the family needs the traction of public outrage to put adequate pressure on the powers that be.
The Yellow Ribbon Project is a portal to bring together the stories of those held or missing abroad. Readers can learn background and updates of ongoing cases, find out how to get involved, and even submit tips while hearing from the families, lawmakers, government entities and more.